Comedy’s B(j)orn Loser

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Some of my friends wondered where I was during the last week of June and now I’m here to explain.

My wife, Kathy, and I wanted to do something very different this year, so a day after school closed we boarded a flight bound for Iceland with the intention of checking out the burgeoning comedy scene in Reykjavik.

We arrived 5 ½ hours later, booked a room, got some sleep, then went off to find a night club that advertised, “The funniest comedians just south of the Arctic Circle.” We figured it was a can’t-miss getaway for three days. After all, the city had elected a standup comic named John Gnarr as its mayor in 2010. So off we went for an evening of laughs at the Goldengang Comedy Club.

Icelandic comedians have good intentions, but they do not have well-thought out routines. There is always a kernel of humor in their jokes, of course, but they need to work on their setups to those jokes.

The “best” comedian of the evening, Bjorn Hanssen, walked out to rousing cheers and then quieted the audience by saying, “You wouldn’t tip a waiter before dinner, would you?”

The audience chuckled.

Then, out of nowhere, he admitted that he doesn’t like to read much and he attributed it to the fact that current book titles don’t intrigue him. If they did, he said, he might take up reading. He then suggested titles that he believed would capture his attention: Twenty Reasons Why You Must Never Give Yourself a Vasectomy, Let’s Give Satan a Second Chance, and Suicide: What’s All the Fuss About? The last one got big laughs because suicide is rampant in Iceland. Hanssen mentioned that 10.4 people out of 100,000 Icelanders commit suicide every year. To put it in perspective, he stated that South Korea has the highest rate (24.7) per 100,000. “But we’re catching up,” Hanssen added gleefully.

Okay, not bad, but then he meandered for a while muttering about how he got caught in traffic that afternoon, and how a piece of meat he had ordered for lunch had a price tag underneath it. Again, the audience was going nuts, but my wife and I looked at each other like we hadn’t received the memo that his material was funny.

Then, out of nowhere, he shouted, “CANCER, BRING IT ON.”

Everyone howled.

Bjorn then announced that he was going to tell a joke for any Americans who might be in the audience. “The nearest lake to Three-Mile Island has the best nuclear fishin’ ” (PAUSE) My favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll song is by Steppenwolf. You know, “Bjorn to be Wild.”

The audience moaned at that one.

But he kept going.

“Have you ever seen an Eskimo beauty contestant?”

“Do midgets have short life spans?”

“And who retrieves the discuss after the athlete tosses it?”

That, believe it or not, was his big finish. The place went crazy. Afterward, I asked the bartender if there were any big-name comedians in Iceland.

“You just saw him,” he said.

“My wife and I would like two more drinks,” I said. “And make them doubles.”

How to Dump Trump

By JOSEPH TINTLE

There stood Donald J. Trump: towering, seething, intimidating, and above all, sounding ugly at the Republican National Convention. The real-estate magnate from New York City had fulfilled every TV producer’s dream with his outrageous behavior that flew in the face of political decorum.

That’s okay, the Donald would tell us, he doesn’t have time for political correctness.

But such a stance would be dangerous in today’s world. Imagine a President Trump firing a volley of insults at leaders worldwide who might not see things his way.

“Hey, towel head, you thirsty?” he might shout at some Mideast leader who he disagrees with. “Have a glass of sand.”

Eventually when he runs out of his own one-liners he will turn to Sickipedia.

“Hey, Putin, I heard you had an amicable divorce. It must have been. Your wife is still alive.”

To President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China: “If I were a Chinese billionaire they’d call me Cha-Ching.”

We’d probably have every enemy at our doorstep within a week of Trump taking the oath of office.

Yes, certainly, the Donald has touched a nerve among the electorate, but clearly he is not the man to run our country. He’s just an arrogant loudmouth.

If Hillary Clinton wishes to take him down all she has to do is something she should have done a long time ago: Tell the electorate to turn on the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump and see why, according to comedian Seth MacFarland, Trump is the second worst tragedy to hit New York City.

MacFarland, who hosted the roast, was in no mood to take prisoners, especially billionaire Trump.

“You’re a grown man and you’ve got hair like Dennis the Menace. What’s going on here?” MacFarland said. “Did you fall head first into a cotton candy machine? What happened? … And Donald, as long as I have you here, it’s pronounced huge not yuge. And here’s another one. It’s pronounced I am delusional, not I am am running for president.”

Say this for Trump, he’s got a sense of humor. But it wouldn’t be long before things went too far as the parade of insult comics marched to the podium and trashed not only Trump but his family members too.

So bring on the insults.

Snoop Dogg: “The Donald says he wants to move into the White House. Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time you pushed a black family out of their home.”

Lisa Lampanelli: “You’ve always gotten beautiful women. You’ve ruined more models’ lives than bulimia … But that’s all behind him now. Donald is very happy with his lovely wife, Insert Name Here.”

Trump thought that joke was a hoot. And it was. But who would allow someone to attack his wife in public? Lampanelli’s crude pokes at Mrs. Trump soon became scatological and a close-up shot of Mrs. Trump revealed a beleaguered woman just trying to to get through the moment as hundreds of audience members laughed at her. Clearly, we have become a nation of barbarians being entertained by vulgarians.

Roastmaster General Jeff Ross next stepped to the podium and asked Trump if he was having a good time. Trump acknowledged that he was and Ross cracked, “Then tell your face.”

Turning to the audience, Ross announced that he and the Donald had a lot in common. “We both live in New York, we both play golf, we both fantasize about his daughter … ” Ivanka Trump could only shake her head from side to side. What kind of father would have his daughter endure these jokes?

Eventually Ross wrapped up his routine by saying that he looked forward to Trump running for president because “I can’t wait for the assassina –, I mean the inauguration.”

Trump ended the program reveling once more in his arrogance just in case we hadn’t detected it. “What is the difference between a wet raccoon and Donald J. Trump’s hair?” he began. “A wet raccoon doesn’t have seven billion f—— dollars in the bank.” Then he leaned back and bathed in his sycophants’ applause.

To be sure, Donald Trump has hit a nerve regarding several hot-button campaign issues, including Obamacare and illegal immigration, but this nativist is not the man we need sitting in the White House in 2017.

The world is filled with arrogant bullies right now and this arrogant bully apparently has no solutions to the problems that beset America. Push him on solutions and he only becomes the loud, brutish name caller he has always been.

It ought to be interesting when he tangles with Hillary Clinton during their first debate. She will demand that he produce answers to solve our nation’s problems. If he doesn’t, she’ll fire off a litany of her own. That is, if he does not shout her down.

Interesting debates await.

 

 

Wild Drug Stories that would have made Dr. Timothy Leary Really Leery

By JOSEPH TINTLE

If you ever become a teacher get ready for one question I guarantee you’ll be asked: “Have you ever done drugs?”

“No,” I always reply.

“Aw, c’mon, Mister. You must’ve done weed at least.”

“Nope.”

Most students quietly size me up to determine if I’m telling the truth. And when they realize that I am, they ask why I didn’t do drugs.

I tell them I have never in my life followed the crowd about anything that I didn’t agree with. Now, I didn’t avoid drugs years ago because my parents told me not to. I certainly disobeyed them on more than one occasion.

A student then wonders if, perhaps, I didn’t use drugs because they were against the law.

That wasn’t my reason either. After all, I could have bought any drug from my friends and chances were pretty good that I would not have been nabbed by authorities.

At issue was health.

What might have happened if I had indulged in drugs? Would I have liked them? And, if so, would I have gone too far? I also thought about my children years down the line. I wanted to be able to look them in the eyes one day and say I did not do drugs when they inevitably would ask me about the topic.

But a childhood friend hit upon yet another reason I had to consider.

“You didn’t do drugs because you just wanted to drive the rest of us nuts,” he said.

I gave his suggestion some thought and had to admit that was indeed part of my decision-making process.

He laughed and promised, “The day you turn 70, I’m going to get a pound of pot and roll up a massive joint with the Sunday New York Times, and force you to smoke it.”

March 26, 2022 is not that far away.

As the years passed my decision — no matter why I made it — seemed to be the correct one for me. Friends who went off to college stepped up their drug usage, particularly LSD. An acquaintance at the time told me that someone had secretly slipped him a tab of acid shortly before he drove down Route 1 to pick up his girlfriend at Newark Airport.

On the way, the drug began to take effect. He swore that as he looked into his rearview mirror he saw a giant Dunkin’ Donut pursuing him at top speed.

“And it had a bite taken out of it,” he recalled.

His experience got stranger.

Once inside the airport he was gazing out the panoramic glass windows to get a clear view of his girlfriend’s incoming flight. That’s when he saw a 707 explode in flames and topple onto the runaway.

“That’s my girlfriend’s plane,” he shouted hysterically as he pounded the glass.

Security rushed in and convinced him that no such accident had occurred. They told him that he was imagining it.

One time I was visiting George Washington University and staying with a psychology major who fancied LSD. He always spoke about the wonders of the drug. He said that the national drug guru at the time, Timothy Leary, did LSD often. “And he was a Harvard professor,” my friend said, as if that made dropping acid okay.

We fell asleep late that Saturday night, but an hour later my friend was standing at the foot of his bed trying to convince me that a headless sailor was dangling in front of our window and blood was gushing out of his neck. I had all I could do to persuade him that he was seeing things and that he needed to stay away from the window which was six stories above the pavement. When exactly he had ingested LSD that night, I have no idea because I would have stopped him. He probably knew that which is why he did it on the sly.

I really didn’t need anymore convincing about the effects of drugs after that, but then I came across a John Lennon interview. The former Beatle was regaling an interviewer with his countless trips on acid and admitted that he had gone too far because years later he never felt like he had completely come back from those drug excursions. He described the feeling as his soul being just slightly outside his body at all times.

The possibility of my soul being just slightly outside my body every day for the rest of my life — nah, that wasn’t for me.

Points Worth Considering After Graduating High School

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Recently high school seniors across America took part in their graduation ceremonies. But if I had the chance to pull them aside, I would have made three points before they moved on with their lives.

POINT ONE: If you want to experience a wonderful life start right now and look out for others. Believe it or not, it’s not all about you; it’s about the other guy. And while some of you are already on that path, a good deal of you need to consider this suggestion. So how can you begin?

Start small:

Hold a door for someone, anyone.

Say hello to a stranger.

Help anyone in need.

Volunteer.

Be kind.

Do what your parents and guardians ask without an argument.

Wake up every morning and say to yourself, “Who can I help today?”

Then act.

POINT TWO: Read.

Become curious about life. Find areas of interest and learn more about them. Not only will you become more knowledgeable, you will become richer in spirit because you will have something to share in discussion with others.

Don’t read just to bolster your test scores, read to bolster your life. After all, no matter what line of work you eventually pursue you will be dealing with people of all ages, various levels of education and experience. You want to be part of that conversation rather than wishing for that conversation to be over because you have no clue what others are talking about.

So subscribe to a reputable newspaper, read books, and look up words you don’t know. Reading will pay dividends in the future.

POINT THREE: Work hard and do your best.

Work is a four-letter word to some of you, but you might want to consider the advice of President Theodore Roosevelt who once said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

How many of you are satisfied with just getting by? That’s okay for now. You are still maturing. But the day will come when you realize what your purpose is in life and you will grab it. Only then will you be inspired to give your best effort. You will show up to work on time, all the time. You will stay after hours to smooth out the edges of a project. And you will go home feeling you truly accomplished something that day.

But would it hurt to start doing your best in everything now? Think about it.

And so Class of 2015, find what you would love to do in life and then have a torrid love affair with it for the rest of your days.

HOW YOU CAN BECOME A PROFESSIONAL WRITER IN ONE NOT-SO-EASY LESSON

By JOSEPH TINTLE

Every year I get a new batch of students and every class wants to know how I got into writing and eventually sports writing before I became a teacher. I tell them to sit back. This will take a while.

It all began in May 1962. I was in fourth grade and writing an essay for my teacher, Mrs. Coleman, at the kitchen table. That’s when my dad looked over my shoulder and said, “You’re going to be a writer, son.”

“How do you know, Dad?” I replied. “I’ve only written a few sentences.”

“Because I’m a writer; I can just tell.”

While I have always remembered what he had said that evening, I fought off his suggestion for years. I hated writing. Writing was a drag. Too much thinking. Too much organizing. Leave me alone.

High school wasn’t much better. The assignments were awful. Perhaps if someone had taken the time to show me a way to tap my creativity and assign me topics of interest, I might have flourished.

College. Well, at least the books we read were of value and our class discussions are still etched in my memory. But writing, for me, was pure labor. I had better things to do.

Then came college graduation one Saturday in June 1974. Monday followed and my parents told me to get a job.

Get a job? I’m no good at anything. Can’t do math. Forget science.

“Remember when you were in fourth grade,” my father said. “That time when I told you there was a writer in you. Why don’t you pursue that line of work?

“Because I hate it, Dad.”

“But you’ve got to do something. And look, you’re a pretty good storyteller. If you can tell stories, you can write stories.”

He had a point. So I gave it some thought, sent out scores of resumes, and eventually was hired by a newspaper as a copyboy. The first month of employment was uneventful. I proved I was a capable headline and caption writer and pretty good at filing stories and photos. But when the editor told me to write a feature on a 16-year-old pitcher from North Arlington, New Jersey, I almost choked. A feature story! What’s that? How do you write it? I played baseball, but I never tracked a game and wrote about it. I was plenty scared, but I’ve always had a good poker face and I just said, “Yes, sir,” and headed off to do as I was told.

Because my assignment was a feature, I could hand it in the next day.

I was a nervous wreck during the interview with the kid and not much better when charting the game.

Afterward, I headed home and spent the night and part of the next day trying to “craft” a story that the editor would accept. I’ve got to admit I did my best and I thought it was pretty good too.

I dropped the story in the editor’s basket and a few minutes later I saw him reach for it. He read the two-and-a-half-page piece and called me over. Then he walked me to a five-foot high cabinet where he began editing my story with, what was called in the newsroom, a Chinese grease pencil. I watched as he dragged its red, waxy point through line after line of my prose. He crossed out everything I wrote until he got three-quarters of the way down the page and left a sentence untouched.

“Why didn’t you cross that out?” I asked.

“Because it’s a simple declarative sentence. Not like this other horse shit you wrote.”

The editor crossed out the rest of the page, almost all of the entire next page, and when he came to the final half page of copy he saved himself time and drew an “X” across the page.

Then he glared at me. Real hard.

“So, how long do you think you’d like to work for us?” he asked.

“Till I’m 65.”

He held up the three pages and tore them in half.

“No, seriously,” he was saying now, “how long do you think you’ll be working here?”

I already was reading between the lines, but I played along.

“Five years?”

Rip.

“About a year?”

Rip.

“If you give me horse shit like this again, you’ll be out of here in twenty minutes.”

And to make his point, he tore the sheets one more time and threw them at me. My story had been reduced to confetti. I was mortified. Did I mention this was done in front of an entire newsroom?

“Pick them up,” he ordered.

“No, you’ve made your point.”

I headed back to my desk and finished the shift.

Neither of us picked up the torn scraps that night, but I made a decision. This would never happen again. The next day I bought copies of The New York Times and the Daily News and I went to the library and took out an anthology of sports stories. I not only read the works of Times sports columnist Red Smith and sports writer Dick Young of the Daily News, I wrote out their articles by hand so I could get into their heads and learn the secrets of sportswriting.

A month later, the editor assigned me to write an advance about the upcoming Princeton-Columbia football game. I couldn’t think of two more desperate teams, but I had a job to do. I spoke with both coaches, interviewed a couple of players on each team, found an angle, and got to work on an old Remington typewriter. I had two hours to write the piece. I handed it in on time, returned to my desk, and waited for the bomb to drop.

The editor read the story, took out his Chinese grease pencil, but hardly used it. Then he put a headline on the story and sent it to the print shop.

I was curious as to what his thoughts were.

“Was the story okay?” I asked timidly.

“Did I rip it up and throw it in your face?”

I nodded, and back to my desk I went.

Well, I did not stay much longer after that. I was pretty thin-skinned at the time. But if I have to cite a turning point in my writing career, it most certainly was the night I turned in my first story about the kid from North Arlington. And while I never would have treated a young writer the way I was treated, I’ve got to admit that sports editor’s teaching method worked. I’ve been writing ever since.